Before getting to the ins and outs of a gun trust, let’s start with what is a trust. Trusts are essentially “legal buckets” that hold property. And if that property makes money, the trust is taxed on that money. You can put your house, your car and all your savings into a trust. When you do, for the most part it becomes bulletproof with respect to creditors. A valid trust instrument will prevent a person suing you from accessing your home, car and personal property if the trust is properly designed and properly administered under state law.
Trusts are usually thought of as a wealth-maintenance device. They also allow for property to pass to beneficiaries under the trust outside of probate. Trusts are not one-size-fits-all documents. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.
What Is a Gun Trust?
Gun trusts are different from traditional trusts. Unless you have firearms that are regulated under the National Firearms Act or plan to acquire some, you likely do not need one. That’s because the gun trust is designed with the NFA in mind.
A gun trust is a revocable trust. It can be terminated by the person setting it up (the trustor). Because it is revocable, it does not provide protection from creditors. It provides protection from the ATF. The main benefit of a gun trust is flexibility. It allows multiple trustees. Trustees are the persons that administer a trust and are responsible for it. So long as those trustees are 18 years of age or older, they can legally have possession of NFA-related items (suppressors, etc.) that would otherwise be impermissible.
Let’s suppose you’re 60 years old and you have three children, ages 32, 21 and 17. As the trustor of a gun trust, you can have the two older children serve as co-trustees with you. They can then use and have legal possession of the items in your gun trust even though they did not purchase them. When you die, there is no need for transfer of the NFA items. Those firearms are property of the trust and become the responsibility of the surviving trustees. When your youngest child becomes eligible, he can be added to the trust.
There are multiple entities on the internet selling NFA gun trusts. However, a far better option is to see an attorney who actually drafts these trusts, understands the National Firearms Act and has read the cases interpreting the trust statute. Creating the trust legally and ensuring it meets the requirements of the statute require legal advice, which no one selling you a form over the internet can provide. You’ve likely invested thousands in your firearms and NFA items. It makes sense to spend a few more dollars and get excellent legal advice rather than buying something off-the-shelf.
You could expect to pay an attorney between $200 and $800 for the creation of a gun trust. While this might be more than you would like to spend, it’s money well spent. Pay a little more upfront and get professional help to protect yourself and your trustees. How many horror stories have you heard about a parent failing to draft a will and leaving their children to deal with a legal nightmare in probate? A good attorney knows where the land mines are and can help you avoid them.